What is that strange looking fruit? It looks like a little paper lantern!

Here at Hillside, we call it ‘Cape Gooseberry’, but it is also know as ‘Peruvian Ground Cherry’, ‘Golden Berry’ or ‘Aztec Berry’. Sometimes, in USA, it is marketed as ‘Pichuberry’. It comes from South America, around Peru, Ecuador and Columbia.

A less well-known name is ‘husk tomato’. It is, in fact, a perennial plant, related to tomatoes, potatoes, chillies, capsicums and two common weeds, at least in these parts, ‘wild tobacco’ and ‘blackberry nightshade’. Its Latin name is is Physalis peruviana.

It has been grown for more than 200 years in England and yet remains relatively unknown in Australia. It is easy to grow once established and we have found it has few pests or diseases. It does need some managing, it can become a sprawling plant (much like an untrained tomato), and will take over a large area if allowed. Unlike other varieties of ‘nightshade’, it fruits quite happily in part shade; in Winter our plant gets just two hours direct sun a day! The fruit, which ripens in late Winter and Spring, stores well on the kitchen bench; there is no need to refrigerate.

When ripe, the fruit tends to fall off the bush and can be found quite easily because the husks ripen from green to a golden yellow or brown colour. Sometimes the immature fruit falls and, if eaten, can be very tart indeed. We let them ripen on the kitchen bench until the husks are a golden brown colour.

The fruit, which grows inside those papery ‘lanterns’ is delicious, being both sweet and slightly tart. It can be eaten fresh, on its own or in a fruit salad. It can also be used in desserts or preserved in jams or chutneys.


Choose your location carefully – the plant will be there for a number of years. It will be need fertile, well drained soil and a position that is in the shade on summer afternoons. You can train it on a trellis or fence or just put a ‘cage’ around it. It will root from nodes on the stems so any part that touches the ground can potentially grow roots. That process when done deliberately is called ‘layering’. Once it has taken hold and the roots are established, the ‘new’ plant can often be successfully separated from the parent plant and given away or grown elsewhere.

New plants can also be struck from cuttings or grown from seed sown in Spring after frosts (September to November) or March (in frost free areas only). The seeds are tiny and can take several weeks to germinate. The recommended distance to plant them is 50cm apart – we have only one bush and it takes up much more space than that!


Dried cape gooseberries are sometimes sold as ‘Inca Berries’ coated in dark chocolate – quite a taste sensation with the sweetness of the chocolate and the slight tartness of the fruit!

DISCLAIMER: The information given here is for entertainment and/or gardening purposes only. Please do further research if you are unfamiliar with this plant. If you have never eaten it before, try one fruit and wait a few hours before eating more.


Published by Lynne

I'm one half of the partnership that owns "Hillside Homegrown and Handmade". We teach people how to develop food security by growing some of their own, learn basic handy-person skills to complete their own DIY projects and to live in a manner which is more sustainable for themselves, their families and the earth.

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